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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Turkey Enters Northern Iraq

Turkey finally sent troops into Northern Iraq last week to fight the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) that is based there. It was a small, brief incursion but it may be the first of many.

This comes as a hardliner is about to become Chief of Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, an opposition leader is calling for stronger action against the PKK, and Turkey wants to extradite a top PKK official who they believe is in Northern Iraq under Kurdish protection.

So, it is no surprise that the President of Iraq (who is a Kurd) has told Turkey that the Iraqi government will "do its best" to keep the PKK from attacking them. He also announced the forced closure of the PKK's Iraq offices.

Let's hope that they do/can keep the PKK out of Turkey and, by doing so, keep Turkey out of Iraq.

There is a complex network of interactions at work here, unfortunately. The Turks are US allies and any destabilization in Iraq is bad for the US. However, the PKK is also the enemy of Iran, which is the enemy of the US - so, any trouble they cause Iran is, ostensibly, good for the US. (So, we have looked the other way until recently.) However, trouble for Iran is not something the central Iraqi government wants, as they are Shiite dominated and close to Tehran. But, by allowing the PKK safe haven in Northern Iraq, the Kurds, who have been our allies since the first Gulf War, are tempting a Turkish military response. This would be destabilizing in the only part of Iraq that is currently, relatively stable. Also, fighting the PKK could bring Turkey (our ally) closer to Iran (our enemy).

So, would the Shia government respond to this military action as an attack on Iraq, or as a way to help Iran with their PKK troubles? This dynamic could further strain the sectarian/ethnic divisions in Iraq.


Basically, it would be an even larger mess that the region really does not need right now. So, as I said, hopefully the Kurds will reign in the PKK so another part of the Middle East does not enter into open conflict.

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